I remember walking out of the blockbuster "David Bowie Is" exhibit at the Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago last year thinking he was the greatest creative genius in the history of the world.
The internationally touring exhibit made a pretty compelling case. It featured more than 400 items, including lyric sheets, diary entries, stage costumes and original artwork, to show Bowie's many dimensions as a artist, his varied and wide-ranging influences, and how influential he was in so many areas of the culture, most notably music and fashion. The retrospective of Bowie's pioneering, sui generis career charted how the avant-garde pop star constantly reinvented himself over the years, keeping himself relevant as the world changed in profound ways.
Bowie's effusive and distinct personality infused the exhibit, which included his paintings, Ziggy Stardust jumpsuits, clips from "Labyrinth" and playbills from his turn in "The Elephant Man," with the energy and spectacle of a rock show. It was often sold out during its 15-week run and smashed the MCA's attendance with 193,000 visitors, including many who traveled to Chicago to see the only U.S. stop on the tour.
I recall Bowie's music suffusing the gallery space, and a married couple just dancing with total abandon, which is something that would seem really incongruous at most art museum exhibits. But I remember thinking in that moment how, through his creativity and unique vision, one man brought so much joy to so many people.